Taiichi Ohno (February 29, 1912-May 28,1990) is considered by many to be the father of the Toyota Production System. He eventually rose to the rank of executive vice president in the company.
While Ohno had many innovative ideas and published several landmark books (see them and other books about him here), perhaps his biggest creative leap was integrating the American supermarket system of resupply into the automotive industry. He was able to lay the foundation for kanban systems, pull, and one-piece flow by changing the way components were supplied to production processes.
Taiichi Ohno was also known for his approach to problems. He looked at problems as opportunities for improvement, and relentlessly attacked waste.
Lean legend also has him as the originator of the chalk circle. He would draw a circle on the floor and have his subordinates stand in it for extended periods watching a production process to gain a complete understanding of its flow.